When Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, a specialist mental health trust, faced a recruitment and retention crisis exacerbated by the wider issues facing the care sector, its solution was to look at its own core values. Helping under-represented groups was key for the Merseyside-based trust, so it turned to local long-term unemployed people, blending its outreach activities with its own core business in a way that impressed judges.
The trust knew that joblessness can have a drastic effect on mental health, so it looked to communities experiencing high levels of unemployment as increased attrition among expensive agency staff began to bite. Reinventing its recruitment outlook, attitude and values were now prioritised over skills. And a new approach to learning was critical to ensuring the project was a success.
The team worked closely with the Department of Work and Pensions’ Job Centre network to deliver a six-week pre-employment training programme supported by the Skills Funding Agency and Health Education England. Jobseekers were given the opportunity to receive values-based training alongside qualifications such as certificates in health and social care, IT and customer service.
Three intensive weeks of classroom sessions based on the trust’s own curriculum kicked off the course, followed by two weeks of work experience. Candidates were assigned a ‘workplace buddy’, an experienced staff member who supported and encouraged them.
By capturing passion and determination, the recruitment process was streamlined and retention strengthened. Individuals who completed the programme were passionate about providing quality care and saw it as the chance to embark on a long-term career, and 79 per cent of those who took part in the programme went on to full employment with the trust.
The emphasis on values also led to a more committed workforce, according to the trust. And savings seen through the pilot are estimated at around £40,000. Participants reported feeling “on cloud nine” after completing the course. One said they felt privileged to have had access to “a fun, in-depth and enjoyable course which provided the skills and practice to open loads of doors for a great career”.
Judges praised Mersey Care for the innovation and social benefits of its refreshed approach to recruitment, adding it was encouraging to see the programme was already being replicated by other organisations.